Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha contacted a key witness to an alleged bullying incident after the Herald asked questions about accusations by three women working on a joint justice project.
The witness is a senior police officer who intervened in a heated exchange between Haumaha and one of the three women from Justice and Corrections who refused to work inside Police National Headquarters because of Haumaha's alleged behaviour towards them.
One of the three women who walked out of police headquarters — and says one alleged incident was witnessed by the police officer whom Haumaha contacted last week — now plans to make a formal complaint about Haumaha's alleged behavior.
The Herald can now reveal Haumaha allegedly called the lower ranking officer, who previously worked directly for him in the Māori Pacific and Ethnic Services division, one night last week to ask for his support.
This was several days before the Herald published the allegations.
The officer reported the conversation with Haumaha to his district commander who in turn alerted senior leadership in Police National Headquarters.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said his executive team was made aware on Friday of contact between Haumaha and a staff member in relation to bullying allegations.
"This will be investigated and we are currently seeking further information about what has occurred to determine what steps are required," said Bush.
"The Police Executive, including Deputy Commissioner Haumaha, recognise the need to ensure that there is an appropriate level of independence to any investigation of all the matters raised in the media recently, including this most recent allegation."
Bush said the police were yet to receive any complaint in relation to the bullying allegations which were the subject of media report last week.
"However, we will be reaching out to the agencies concerned and, where known, the people concerned to give them the opportunity to talk to us."
In a statement, Haumaha declined to comment after consulting with the police but said he was relieved the government inquiry is about to get underway.
"I look forward to all of the matters which have been raised over the past few weeks being addressed and examined either by the independent inquiry or through any other appropriate processes.
"These are the appropriate venues for my responses to the matters and allegations raised and not through media comment."
"I thank my family who have suffered the consequences of weeks of intense media scrutiny for all of the love and support that they have shown me.
"I have been committed to NZ Police for over 30 years and I am extremely proud of all of my contributions to communities throughout New Zealand. I also remain committed to improving the outcomes for Māori and am extremely proud of this work to date."
The new investigation comes as a government inquiry by Mary Scholtens QC will review the recruitment process which led to Haumaha being appointed as the deputy police commissioner in June.
The inquiry was announced the day the Herald revealed comments Haumaha made during Operation Austin, an investigation into historic police rape allegations made by Louise Nicholas.
He described his friends Brad Shipton as a "softie"and Bob Schollum as a "legend"with women, while one officer told the 2004 investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha described Nicholas' allegations as "a nonsense".
While Haumaha has apologised, Police Minister Stuart Nash said he was unaware of the "deeply disappointing"comments when he gave Haumaha's name to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the deputy commissioner role.
Haumaha's links to the New Zealand First party, including leader Winston Peters giving a speech at a marae celebration of Haumaha's previous promotion last year, have dogged the inquiry.
And the original chair Dr Pauline Kingi — appointed by Internal Affairs Minister and New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin — resigned after the Herald revealed Kingi endorsed Haumaha on professional networking site LinkedIn.
Scholtens was appointed the day after Ardern said she was "hugely frustrated" new information about Haumaha — which was not publicly known at the time of his promotion to deputy police commissioner — was emerging after the appointment was made.
If, at the conclusion of the Scholtens Inquiry, deficiencies are found in the appointment process, the Prime Minister will seek advice from the Solicitor-General or the State Services Commissioner on the "appropriate next steps".
Her comments came after an ongoing Herald investigation into the promotion revealed three women working on a joint project walked out of Police National Headquarters because of alleged bullying by Haumaha.
The policy analysts, two from the Justice Ministry, one from Corrections, were based at police headquarters in Wellington working in the Māori, Pacific, Ethnic Services division run by Haumaha, a superintendent at the time.
The cross-sector project aimed to improve "justice outcomes"for Māori.
Alleged verbal bullying contributed to the women leaving police headquarters in June 2016, feeling "devalued and disillusioned".
The trio told their managers, did not return to the building, and continued working on the project from the Justice Ministry offices.
Two senior government ministers assured Parliament the scope of the inquiry was wide enough to consider the bullying allegations.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson also said the chief executives of the Justice Ministry and Corrections, Andrew Bridgman and Ray Smith respectively, would be asked how the bullying allegations were handled.
One of the three women who walked out of PNHQ says they raised the matter with their respective managers, which is why they kept working on the project from the national office of the Justice Ministry.
However, she was never asked to make a formal complaint and the women believed their managers would handle it on their behalf.
Conflicting accounts have emerged from the Justice Ministry, Corrections and Police about what happened next.
Corrections said there was no record of any allegation of bullying.
"Issues were raised"about the management of the project, according to the Justice Ministry, and that's why staff continued working on the project from the Justice offices.
"The issues around behaviour were raised at the highest level between the Acting Chief Executive of the Ministry Audrey Sonerson and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mike Clement," said deputy chief executive Colin Lynch.
"The Ministry expected Police to follow up this issue appropriately."
Sonerson herself went on to become a Deputy Police Commissioner but is currently seconded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
And the police say an allegation of bullying was made to Clement by a "third party, external to all agencies". The individuals were not named.
"Clement immediately made contact with the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections to request more information and advise that the staff involved could make a complaint if they wished.
"No further information or complaints were forthcoming to Mr Clement from the agencies.
"In the absence of any formal complaint, or further information, the matter was unable to be taken further, and therefore not escalated to the Commissioner."
But one of the women, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said no one told her Clement had been in touch with Justice or Corrections.
"Nobody told me about it. I'm like, wow, because we would have met with [Clement]," she said, when the Herald told her of the response from police.
"I will make a complaint now. We trusted management to deal with it and never heard back."